I bought into the idea of recruiting outside of formal recruitment periods in my second year of college, but it always seemed like an enormous task. Some of that is due to the marriage of the year-round recruitment concept with sales team tactics like cold calls and database management. Part of it; however, is that year-round recruitment rarely if ever, vibes with the rules and policies of a fraternity or college/university.
This topic is important because as familiar as members and Greek Life professionals are with year-round recruitment, it is almost never implemented in any respectable form. So, in typical Fraternity Man fashion, let's explore year-round recruitment from the perspective of an undergraduate chapter. How would year-round recruitment occur naturally in a chapter setting? Can a chapter be better off without a dedicated recruitment executive board position?
Making Year-Round Recruitment Workable for an Undergraduate Chapter
First: If you are an undergraduate member of a fraternity/sorority reading this, I need you to pretend that none of your recruitment policies exist. That is probably tough because it is a complete fantasy, but it is the best way to understand the baseline expectation we are trying to set with year-round recruitment: finding the best possible fits for you and the members of your chapter. Every fraternity or sorority wants that to be their reality.
Okay, so, your chapter is whatever size it is, and it does a lot of things, and it knows which things are most important to it. The chapter recruits to accomplish what it sets out to accomplish. If your chapter prioritizes service (i.e. you put more than the required effort into it), then it aims to recruit people with an interest and capacity for service/volunteerism. This is how you identify potential members; you find people with common interests and commitments. Then, you see how well they work with and get along with the members of your chapter ("values").
What's that? Your chapter already utilizes a values-based process? Lol, not as well as you think.
The year-round recruitment chapter's recruitment team is one person for every 3-5 committees/chairmen. It'd be wise to have at minimum two people on the team (if you're not a chapter of one). If your chapter does committees effectively (see: projects), then this ratio makes sense. If your chapter does not even have committees, then you might be using the word "chairman" wrong. But in this scenario, your chapter has a legitimate strategy (not a plan) and at least a few functioning groups of people who put together events (socials, service, philanthropy, SPORTS, etc.).
A Land Where Smoker Parties are a Reason to Hang Out and not to Hassle Freshman for Their Life Story and a Lifelong Commitment. . .
The recruitment team manages a map of the relationships your chapter is building with potential members and the outside world. It could be a spreadsheet, software by Phired Up, whatever, the point is you keep track of important information about potential members like how to get in touch with them, which events they attend, and important notes ("deans list," "begged to join," etc.). The other function of the recruitment team is to adapt your public programming into recruitment opportunities. They do not plan a single event of their own, not even at times that you would think a recruitment team would plan an event (like an imaginary "rush week").
Instead, they work with chairpersons and committees to invite the right mix of potential members to the right events, and to make sure the event is accessible to potential new members or partner organizations. A chapter that pays serious attention to academics uses study sessions to improve grades and also to connect with others. That sounds easy (because it is), but it accomplishes a number of objectives:
It engages others in the work of your chapter, building first-hand credibility that you do what you say you do
It allows your members to meet others and practice their social skills, be they potential members, potential startup co-founders, potential spouses, etc.
It allows you to meet potential members who are already engaging in the things you expect of your members
Throughout the year, the recruitment team invites potential members to events they may be interested in. If you are low on potential members, your team finds a cohost (a service club for a service project, an academic club for finals prep, etc.). Throughout the event, you learn about new people and potential members. You learn if you work well together and if they get along with your friends and brothers. You may even just find people who won't be members but who like helping out at your chapter's programs. . . friends who make you look good are great friends to have!
Your chapter votes, extends bids, and handles new member orientation whatever way it handles it. You could give bids in batches once a term or you could have a self-led or family-led new orientation process that occurs continuously. If that sounds too good to be true, its probably because you or your chapter treat recruitment as something separate from everything else. In this setup, year-round recruitment is integrated into what you do; it's invisible; it is a part of the life of your chapter.
Oh No! Rules
Nothing written above is particularly groundbreaking, but recruitment still seems to be compartmentalized away from the rest of the chapter experience. I appreciate that the Vice President of a Pi Kappa Phi chapter is also the head of recruitment. Theoretically, this means the person overseeing the chapter's programs is making sure they align with the chapter's strategy and niche (i.e., making them appealing to the right type of potential member). Unfortunately, many if not most fraternities still separate recruitment from the other functions of a chapter, this unintentionally prioritizes big promises and big personalities over things like, say, functional relationships.
There are many levels of university recognition that could improve or alleviate the disparity in how college administrators treat fraternity organizations compared to other student organizations. They include, but are not limited to, liberalizing recruitment policies, chapter disaffiliation from a school, or advancement to some sort of "honor program" status (which would probably only work for local fraternities). That said, the worst possible thing that a school can impose on its fraternity chapters is a formal rush week with mandatory social events that replicate parties but without alochol or the potential for sex (unless. . . you know).
Year-round recruitment may never be a true common quality among fraternity and sorority chapters. That may be due to policy, a lack of interest, or the perceived difficulty of managing a part-time sales team within a chapter. That said, the concept has quite a bit of support throughout the fraternity/sorority system. A setup that integrates recruitment into the existing life and functions of a chapter is, in my opinion, the ideal path to functional, sustainable reform.
What do you think? Let me know on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Or, write a rebuttal and I may attach it to this article :).
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